Sunday, November 22, 2009
Nov. 21 2009 (Bloomberg) -- Italian police today arrested two Pakistani nationals who were charged with aiding terrorists in connection with the Mumbai attacks in November 2008.
The men were detained in the northern town of Brescia, where they have a money-transfer agency, Stefano Fonsi, head of the local Digos special-police force, said by telephone.
The day before the Mumbai attacks, the suspects transferred money to activate a voice-over-Internet-protocol phone account used by the terrorists and their accomplices, Fonsi said.
The investigation that led to the arrests started in December 2008 after the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Indian police alerted Italian authorities that the money for the phone lines had come from Brescia, Fonsi said.
The Mumbai terrorist attacks began on Nov. 26 and militants struck two luxury hotels, a railway terminal and a building housing a Jewish center, killing about 200 people.
To contact the reporters on this story: Chiara Remondini
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Boy in court over stolen chocolate
A 12-YEAR-OLD Aboriginal boy will face a children's court today charged with receiving a stolen Freddo frog.
The chocolate frog, allegedly shoplifted by the accused child's friend from a Coles supermarket in regional Western Australia, usually retails for about 70 cents.
The boy, who has no prior convictions, also faces a second charge involving the receipt of a small novelty sign from another store. The sign, which was also allegedly given to the boy by his friend, read: ''Do not enter, genius at work''.
The boy's lawyer, Peter Collins, had lobbied WA police for the charges to be withdrawn but authorities had failed to respond to his written request, he said. ''It's scandalous that a 12-year-old child should be subject to prosecution for a case of this type.''
Mr Collins said when the boy last month missed a court date due to a family misunderstanding, police had apprehended him about 8am on a school day and taken him into custody. The boy was then imprisoned for several hours in the holding cell at the local police station.
The boy will appear at the Northam Children's Court, about 100 kilometres from Perth.
Sunday 15 November 2009 12.00 GMT
Although the Taliban have openly claimed responsibility for the recent epidemic of suicide bombings against civilian targets in Peshawar and Islamabad, many Pakistanis appear convinced that the real culprits are India or the United States.
"These are India's agents," an anti-narcotics bureaucrat tells me in Islamabad with a confident grin. With its operatives active in a string of Indian consulates along the Pak-Afghan border, so goes the popular claim, they direct New Delhi's latest attempt to topple the Islamic Republic. It is a common refrain in Pakistan. In fact, so common, that almost everyone I venture to ask blames the Indians, or Americans, or foreigners for the terrorism.
The country has faced many crises over the years, but these are particularly unsettling days. In the past, violence tended to be unilateral: avoid the angry mob on days of protest, neighbourhoods patrolled by gangs, or criticising vocal mullahs and life was generally quiet. But today's enemy moves with stealth and could be anywhere.
Already poor migrants from Afghanistan and the central Asian republics have been evicted from the slums of Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Karachi on the suspicion that someone among their numbers is responsible for the violence. But these are just the small fry, and even the media and the government claim there is good intelligence implicating foreign powers.
So where, one has to ask, do these rumours come from?
There are three broad explanations. First, this is a traumatised country that is justifiably in shock over the extent to which violence has become an everyday reality. The images of fellow Pakistani men, women and children being martyred on our television screens has a deep impact too. It is only human to look at outside forces to explain this chaos – surely we couldn't be doing this to ourselves? There must be a foreign conspiracy against our country.
Linked to this is a powerful denial complex that is not unique to Pakistan. Much as most Americans refuse to reflect on their own government's past support for Osama bin Laden, there is widespread incredulity over the radicalisation of organised Islam in Pakistan. Because the state itself has historically encouraged client jihadi organisations there is limited public discourse on the militarisation of Islamic doctrine in Pakistan. When these groups kill ordinary Pakistanis, as a consequence, few are willing to accept people from their own towns and provinces are responsible.
A third factor that influences conspiracy theories is that there is occasionally evidence to suggest foreign involvement in the violence. After the Iranian revolution of 1979, Iran and Saudi Arabia exported Islamist militancy to their Pakistani co-religionists in a petty confrontation of regional empires that sowed the seeds for today's brutal Shia-Sunni violence.
The United States has a long history of clandestinely supporting Islamist militancy in Pakistan. When Iran blamed the US for the audacious murder of high profile Iranian Revolutionary Guard members last month, many in Pakistan saw this is as further proof of American involvement in terrorism in the region, including their own country. Added to the intrigue is the fact that for years the US mysteriously refused to kill former Pakistan Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud via remote drone despite being offered his precise location by Pakistani intelligence authorities.
Influence of the Israel lobby on American foreign policy in the Middle East is another source of conspiracy theories in Pakistan. When in April Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman said Pakistan was a greater threat to his country than Iran, many saw it as confirmation of the most strident conspiracy theory here, namely that Israel is clandestinely orchestrating the present mayhem.
Of course none of this proves the conspiracy theories to be correct. Rather, they suggest a false reading of history and social dynamics by many Pakistanis. In the world of the conspiracy, powerful actors are not merely mortals with influence but rather god-like beings who direct geopolitics like an opera, and that is just how the powerful often appear to be in this country.
By marshalling conspiracy theories many people, not just in Pakistan, abdicate responsibility for confronting the ills their societies face. If you are playing cards with a cheat, is there any point in trying to get a better hand?
"But what is the common man to do?" retorts science tutor Imran during a random encounter outside my uncle's house. It is a valid point. With so much out of the ordinary citizen's hands, it is easy to believe Pakistan's problems are all down to hidden designs.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
May 31, 2007
For millions around the world yoga is a source of relaxation and spiritual sustenance. Not so for the Indian Government, which is furious \over efforts by American entrepreneurs – including an Indian-born celebrity “yogi” – to patent the ancient practice.
Indian officials announced yesterday that they would lodge official complaints with US authorities over hundreds of yoga-related patents, copyrights and trademarks that have been issued in recent years.
The Health Ministry said that it would take up the matter directly with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, while the Commerce Ministry said that it would write to the US Trade Representative.
“How can you patent yoga – something that has been in the public domain for thousands of years?” said Verghese Samuel, joint secretary of the Ministry of Health department for yoga and other traditional practices. “It’s a ridiculous decision,” he told The Times. “We’ll have to challenge it. We’ve already started the process.”
The dispute has exposed the differing attitudes towards yoga – and intellectual property rights over “traditional knowledge” – in India and the US.
In India, where yoga has been practised for 6,000 years, it is regarded as a Hindu exercise, involving philosophy as well as fitness, and beyond the control of government or private enterprise. In the United States, where yoga first became popular in the 1970s, it has been largely stripped of its cultural and religious overtones and turned into a $3 billion-a-year subset of the fitness industry.
As yoga has moved from marginal to mainstream, US authorities have issued 150 yoga-related copyrights, 134 patents on yoga accessories and 2,315 yoga-related trademarks.
Indian authorities appear to have been particularly upset by the copyright and trademark granted to Bikram Choudhury, the founder of “Hot Yoga”, for his brand of 26 yoga poses performed in a steam room.
Mr Choudhury, who is originally from Calcutta and opened his first yoga studio in California in the 1970s, copyrighted his yoga sequence in 1978 and obtained a trademark for Bikram Yoga in 2002. In 2005 he won a legal argument with a group of yoga teachers who disputed the copyright and trademark. He argues that his sequence of poses, combined with high temperatures – they should be done at above 105F (40.5C) and 50 per cent humidity – is unique.
“The analogy to music is perfect,” John Marcoux, his lawyer, said. “He’s not claiming ownership of individual notes, but of a particular selection of notes and the arrangement of those notes.”
“If you look at the number of yoga poses in the universe and at how many sequences you can create, the numbers are astronomical,” he added. “This doesn’t hurt yoga, it helps spread it around the world.”
The 61-year-old self-proclaimed “yogi to the stars”, who has about 900 studios around the world, plans to open his first Indian outlet in Bombay.
His plans have been overshadowed by a barrage of criticism in the Indian media from government officials and yoga experts. “One cannot patent yoga. It is an Indian treasure,” said Suneel Singh, who has been teaching yoga for 25 years.
Yoga is one of thousands of traditional Indian products – including basmati rice and turmeric – that the Indian Government has been fighting to protect from Western patents in recent years.
In 2002 it set up a task force to compile a Traditional Knowledge Digital Library with details of 4,500 medicinal plants, Ayurvedic remedies and thousands of yoga postures.
The library, which draws on texts in Sanskrit, Tamil and other ancient languages, is designed to provide a body of evidence to help to fight attempts to copyright Indian traditional knowledge.
Copyright a yoga move?If yoga has been around for 5,000 years, can a 21st century businessman claim to own a piece of it? Bikram Choudhury says yes. The Beverly Hills yoga mogul, who popularized his style of yoga and then franchised a chain of studios bearing his name, has long rankled traditionalists, who dislike his tough business tactics and brash outspokenness. Now Choudhury is facing a challenge in a San Francisco courtroom, where a federal judge is hearing arguments in a lawsuit that some legal experts say could define a new frontier in intellectual property. At issue: Can Choudhury take a sequence of two breathing exercises and 26 yoga poses from an ancient Indian practice, copyright it and control how it is practiced? The Open Source Yoga Unity people say he can't. More inside.
… as the number of Western yoga teachers has grown, there has been a steady increase in patent applications claiming each pose in their class is not part of the ancient discipline of mind and body, but their own unique invention. In the United States alone, there have been more than 130 yoga-related patents, 150 copyrights and 2,300 trademarks. Now India’s Traditional Knowledge Digital Library is being made available to patents offices throughout the world so they can establish whether the claim is a genuine innovation or "prior art" from Indian systems of medicine.
[...] The attempt by US teachers to patent traditional poses has caused disbelief and anger in India, where it has been practiced for around 6,000 years.
"Copyrights over yoga postures and trademarks on yoga tools have become rampant in the West. Till now, we have traced 130 yoga-related patents in the US. We hope to finish putting on record at least 1500 yoga postures by the end of 2009," said Dr V.P Gupta, of the CSIR, who created the Traditional Knowledge Digital Library.
see mother jones article
and review by Jordan Susman